(Reuters) – Accused shooter Nikolas Cruz is expected to appear in a Florida courtroom on Wednesday to plead guilty to killing 17 students and faculty in Parkland, Florida, a 2018 attack that was the deadliest ever at a U.S. high school.
Cruz will enter guilty pleas to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, his lawyer David Wheeler, Broward County’s chief assistant public defender, told the judge at a hearing last week.
Now 23, Cruz was a 19-year-old expelled student with a history of mental health and behavioral issues at the time of the “cold, calculated and premeditated” killings, the Broward State’s Attorney Office said in court documents.
The gun violence on Feb. 14, 2018, left 14 students and three staff dead and 17 others injured.
Because prosecutors have vowed to seek the death penalty, his change of plea from not guilty would open the penalty phase in which a jury would decide whether he should be sentenced to life in prison or death.
In Florida, juries determine whether to impose a death sentence. If prosecutors are not willing to drop the potential death penalty as part of any plea deal that may be struck with Cruz, then a jury would decide.